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Resources for parents, public awareness campaign emphasize importance of school attendance in academic success

The New York State Council on Children and Families has announced the kickoff of the Every Student Present public awareness campaign designed to help parents, teachers, children, and communities understand the negative effects of poor school attendance on children’s academic success. Launched in 2013, Every Student Present is focusing on providing parents with resources to help support students. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo also proclaimed September 2014 as School Attendance Awareness Month to highlight the importance of attending school every day.

For this year’s campaign, the Council included children from the Albany City School District to star in Every Student Present posters and a short public service announcement. A parent resource website offers mothers, fathers, and other caregivers strategies for how they can help their children deal with school anxiety, school refusal, health issues, bullying, and other factors that may keep their children from attending school. Additionally, the Council has developed a toolkit that communities can use to get the message to parents.

“Addressing the issue of chronic absence is a fundamental step in school improvement efforts. A collective community approach is needed to reverse the trend,” said CCF Executive Director Deborah Benson. “Improvements in classroom teaching and curriculum reform will not yield maximum results unless students are physically in school. The Council is excited to kick off this year’s campaign to help parents and communities make a change in the culture of chronic absenteeism.”

According to a survey by the Ad Council, many parents who participated recognize the detrimental impact absences can have on their older children but do not realize the substantial impact it has on younger children. A growing body of research indicates that missing just a few days of school each month can impact children’s reading and math skills and even have an influence on their chances of graduating from high school or completing college.

A research brief from Attendance Works and the Child and Family Policy Center shows:

  • Nationwide, nearly ten percent of kindergartners and first graders are chronically absent (miss ten percent or more of school, including excused and unexcused absences).
  • All children, regardless of socio-economic background, do worse academically in first grade if they are chronically absent in kindergarten.
  • Schools with average daily attendance rates higher than 97 percent rarely have a problem with chronic absence.

New York State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. said, "The connection between school attendance and academic achievement cannot be overstated. By working to reduce chronic absenteeism we are taking measures toward the goal of college and career readiness for all students. Students and families need to understand that attendance is critical to academic success."

“It’s important that we stress attendance early in the school year and early in a child’s academic life,” said Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works, a national nonprofit that pushes for better policy and practice. “We now know that poor attendance in the first month of school can predict that students will be chronically absent, meaning they miss more than ten percent of the entire academic year. And we know that too many absences in preschool and kindergarten can add up to academic trouble in the later grades.”

Albany Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, Ph.D. said, “Every day in school counts – it’s that simple. And it’s especially important for our youngest learners to get into the habit of coming to school every day and on time. The City School District of Albany is proud that our own students are helping to convey this message both here in our city and throughout New York State.”

Positive, prevention-oriented approaches to improved attendance are critical and more effective than approaches that punish students. Schenectady City District Superintendent Larry Spring said, “In less than one year, we drastically increased our attendance in elementary, middle and high schools when we implemented the Community Eligibility Option and began providing our students breakfast in school. This action resulted in our students receiving healthy breakfast; it improved attendance; and increased revenue.”

The Council is collaborating with United Way organizations across the state, United Way of New York City, the New York State School Board Association, New York State Council of Churches, New York PTA, the New York Lottery, MVP Healthcare, Lamar Transit Advertising, Price Chopper, Stewart’s Shops, WMHT, Attendance Works, Children’s Aid Society, Erie I BOCES, New York State Afterschool Network, and the State University of New York to promote Every Student Present. The campaign and related resources have been developed by id29 and Cogent Technologies.

About Every Student Present
Every Student Present is a public awareness campaign designed to help school staff, parents, and communities understand the impact of chronic absence. The goals of the campaign are to promote awareness of chronic absence and to build capacity among schools, families, and communities to reduce it. Follow the campaign on Twitter with the #EveryStudentPresent hashtag and find resources on the Every Student Present website.

About the CCF
The Council on Children and Families coordinates New York State health, education and human services systems as a means to provide more effective systems of care for children and families. Follow the Council on Facebook and Twitter @nysccf, and bookmark its website,

The Council works with its 12 member agencies to coordinate the New York State health, education, and human service systems to provide more effective systems of care for children and families. Members of the Council include the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Labor, the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), the Office of Mental Health (OMH), the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs (Justice Center), the Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives (OPCA), the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), the Office for the Aging (SOFA), and the State Education Department (SED).